Upside: Someone In Education Promoting Violent Video Games!
This new book by Greg Toppo, a former teacher and education reporter, tackles the one topic that so many media seem to get wrong: kids and violent video games. The book focuses on how video games are helping kids learn in new ways, and teach them to become adults who can adapt to solve problems. But what's getting people's attention is how the discussion on violent video games. In that yes, kids do know it's not real. And no, they don't make them more aggressive or want to kill people.
The Marshall Project's Dana Goldstein interviewed Toppo to gain a better understanding of his point of view and the facts to back it up.
Time to quote some of the favorites of the discussion?
Goldstein: You cite a federal report, written by the Secret Service and Department of Education, that investigated the habits of 41 school shooters. Only five, including the Columbine shooters, were deeply interested in violent games. Yet the perception that gaming is at least partly to blame for school violence remains widespread.
Toppo: What happened is that after Columbine, it became harder to get funding to study the cognitive benefits of gaming. All of a sudden, this was not something that had to be studied, it had to be controlled. It was really breathtaking. We’re just emerging from this in the past five years. But before Columbine, you could see a ton of research on things like how gaming can improve attention spans, reading comprehension, and visual acuity — really good bedrock research.
Goldstein: So do you believe it could actually be good for this fearful boy to play violent games?
Toppo: Absolutely, for a number of reasons. Violent entertainment helps kids process the big fears they have. That predates video games by a century or more. What’s Superman but this weird manifestation of this fear we have that the world is going to end?
For supporters of violent games, the big argument is that everyone plays them. No really. Everyone plays them. Toppo mentions a few studies in the article. So if that's the case, then why isn't everyone running around like a mass murderer? It's because we all know it's a game. It's not real. We have no real interest in harming another living creature. Playing a game does not make us violent. We might be upset if we lose in Mario Kart, but that's nothing a few swear words can't fix.
Thus equating a criminal to learning that behavior from games is just silly. It would be the same as saying "all drug addicts wear tennis shoes. Therefore, everyone who wears tennis shoes is a drug addict."
We know that's not the case, but that's essentially what people do. They lump violent video games into one category because it is the easiest way to comprehend a terrible situation.
I highly recommend reading the article. It's good to see some academic perspectives on the support of violent video games.